Saturday, 26 April 2014
Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 1
Even just typing ‘advanced term’ makes me feel crazy nervous, excited and faintly ridiculous all at once. I still feel like I’ve only just started! Whereas previously the weeks seemed to stretch on endlessly, this term seems like a constant sad countdown to the end. One week down, nine to go. The shift was noticeable this week – from the demos (one modestly titled ‘Vegetable Garnishes’ included powders, foams and savoury sorbets) to the kitchen sessions, the motto was definitely ‘that’s the advanced term for you’…If there is one thing Leiths has taught me, it is how to love a salad. I lost count a long time ago of the amount of salads I’ve cooked here and the advanced term is going to be no exception, starting on the very first day with a duck and grapefruit offering. When we suggested what we thought were suitable service times for the dish our teacher told us hers…a good half an hour earlier than we’d planned. Welcome to the advanced term people! The best part was the rice noodles – we deep fried them and as soon as they hit the hot oil they instantly puff up, triple in size and turn bright white like magic – there were lots of startled ‘ooh!’s going round the kitchen as we each took our turn.The middle of the week took a retro turn as we focussed on a whole dressed salmon. No little plated portions for one, these salmon were huge – weighing between 4-5kg each and costing on average £44 per fish. It was definitely an experience working with something so massive – we cooked them in metal drawer liners rather than pans (it took two people to lift them out) tied chopping boards together for them to lie on and filleted it like surgeons in an operating theatre with one person at each end of the fish. At the end of the day, after an enjoyable morning dressing them up, we each got to take 2kg of fish home. A lot of fishcakes, fish pies and curries have been enjoyed by Leiths students across London this week! Flipping a pan upside down when it is full of something you have been making for an hour just feels plain wrong. That is the fun of tarte tatin for you. I had a crazy idea in my mind that I didn’t really like tarte tatin, probably having tried burnt and bitter ones in the past, hence the slightly stingy portion I served up. Happily, I was proved wrong because this was absolutely delicious – worth every moment of careful caramelising stress.3 French classics were Friday’s task – dauphinoise potatoes, ratatouille & lamb noisette. Dauphinoise potatoes are probably my favourite way to eat potatoes – something with that much cream in can never taste anything but amazing. They also sparked debate in the kitchen – onion or no onion? How much garlic, if any? Cheese on top or bare? We were sticking, of course, to the Leiths recipe and in the end they made the perfect Friday lunch, onion and all. Bring on Week 2!